God’s Word for You
Colossians 3:12-13a clothe yourselves with compassion
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, July 13, 2019
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, mercy, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with one another, and forgive whatever complaints you may have against each other.
Beginning with verse 8 of this chapter, Paul urged his readers toward a life of sanctification using negatives: “Rid yourself…do not,” etc. Now, beginning in verse 10, he has urged the reader toward sanctified living using positives: “Put on the new self,” etc. Verse 12 continues this exhortation. The “therefore” of verse 12 relates to verse 11, where Paul finished a sweeping argument that in the body of Christ (that is, the church) there are no distinctions of race or station, and that Christ is in all. So, because of this (“therefore”), as members of Christ’s body (the church, God’s chosen people) we should act like it.
With specific terms, Paul outlines the basics of the sanctified life. Remember that sanctification has a wide and narrow sense. The wide sense is everything the Holy Spirit does to make us God’s people. This includes salvation through believing (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and the atonement of Jesus on the cross (“the sprinkling by his blood,” 1 Peter 1:2). Sometimes it is used as a synonym for justification by the means of grace, such as when Paul says, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified” (1 Corinthians 6:11). In the narrow sense, sanctification is the internal spiritual transformation of the Christian after faith comes. In this sense, sanctification always and only follows after justification. It is the renewal of the heart which, for example, produces good works as a thankful response to the love of God in Christ.
For many readers, this teaching or doctrine of the Bible is easiest to spot by looking for lists such as the one before us, often described as “the fruit of the Spirit.” Other examples include Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:24-32; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Timothy 3:10-11 and 1 Peter 3:15-17. Good works follow after faith, but faith always shows itself in good works. The Christian must not fall into the trap, so prevalent among the Reformed denominations, of imagining that good works are the key to understanding God’s ways. Good works are the Christian’s response to what God does. Understanding and renewal is not, however, found in the works themselves, but in the word of God. It is always best to return to the Scriptures. For example, in verse 13, Paul urges us to bear with one another and to forgive each other. This is not done without understanding that we, the “one another,” are children of God through the blood of Christ. And so we return to the cross for all of our motivation, and the cross will always motivate good works in us, whether little or big. Will a more mature faith always produce greater good works? We would like to think so and some cannot imagine how it could be otherwise. But sometimes a child is willing and able to do what an old man is not, and sometimes an old man is unable or unwilling to do what a child would do without thinking.
Consider these ways to show your love for Jesus, and consider the ways that God has already shown these things to me and you.
“Compassion” (splanchna) in Greek was one’s innermost feeling, the tenderness one feels toward anyone. Here the term is combined with another word (oiktirmos) which is compassionate pity put into action. “Kindness” (chrestotes) carries the idea of behaving in a morally upright way, such as God’s own kindness reflected by human kindness (Romans 11:22). Humility must be genuine, as Paul said: “In humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). “Gentleness” is related to humility. It involves courtesy, and sometimes self-denial. It is more than a soft touch. It is having the best interests of another at heart at all times. “Patience” means allowing whatever time is necessary to pass. Patience, like so many of these qualities, means placing the needs of another ahead of oneself.
Is it possible to put all of these into practice without making an error? No. Begin with the word of God, learning once again (as we do day after day) that you are holy; that you are loved by God. After that, pray that God would add the rest to your life. Only through his compassion can you and I have compassion.
Pastor Timothy Smith